FSANZ calls for comment on changing definitions of genetically modified foods

Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) is seeking public comments on its proposed approach to changing the definitions of “foods produced using genetic technology” and “genetic technology”.

These definitions determine which foods are classified as genetically modified (GM) foods under the Australia-New Zealand Code of Food Standards (the Code). Currently, all GM foods approved for sale in Australia and New Zealand must undergo a pre-market safety assessment by FSANZ and be listed in the Code.

FSANZ Interim CEO Dr Sandra Cuthbert said a 2019 review found current definitions lack clarity, are outdated and do not capture foods produced using new and emerging genetic technologies, such as new selection techniques (NBT) such as genome editing.

“FSANZ proposes to update the definitions to make them clearer and better suited to foods produced by existing, emerging and future genetic technologies.

“The proposed approach recognizes that some NBT foods have the same characteristics as conventional foods, which have a long history of safe use, and therefore can be regulated in a manner that corresponds to the lower risk they pose.”

Updating definitions and adopting a risk-based regulatory approach can help ensure that public health and safety continues to be protected, that meaningful information is provided to consumers through appropriate labeling, and that products have clear and predictable pathways to market.

In the first of two rounds of public consultations, FSANZ invites interested parties to comment on its proposed approach to:

  • revise and expand the process-based definition of “gene technology” to include all methods of genetic modification other than conventional breeding; and
  • revise the definition of “foods produced using genetic technology” to include specific product-based criteria to exclude certain foods from pre-market safety assessment and approval as foods GM. Foods that do not meet all of the relevant exclusion criteria should still be submitted to the FSANZ.

“The approach we are proposing would mean that an NBT food that is equivalent in characteristics and risks to conventional foods is not considered a GM food for Code purposes,” said Dr Cuthbert.

“GM foods would continue to require pre-market safety assessment and approval under revised definitions, with approved GM foods subject to mandatory labeling.

“By revising the definitions, continuing to protect public health by ensuring a safe food supply is our top priority. ”

Regulation of GM foods under the Code does not extend to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), which are separately regulated under the Hazardous Substances and Novel Organisms Act 1996 (HSNO Act) in New Zealand and the Genetic Technology Act 2000 (GT Act) in Australia. Organisms that are GMOs would require separate regulatory assessment and approval by the Gene Technology Regulator in Australia and the Environmental Protection Authority in New Zealand.

FSANZ is seeking comments from interested parties on its proposed approach. The comment period ends at 6:00 p.m. (Canberra time) on December 3, 2021. FSANZ will review all submissions to finalize the proposed approach, which will then be released for a final round of comments.

All decisions by FSANZ on proposals to develop or update standards are notified to the ministers responsible for food regulation in Australia and New Zealand, who can request a revision or accept that the standard become law.

What happens to my comments?

Submissions will be posted on our website as soon as possible after the end of the public comment period.

We will consider any comments received as part of this submission process as part of our ongoing evaluation of proposal P1055.

Stakeholders will have another opportunity to comment in a second call for applications, scheduled for 2022.

/ Public distribution. This material is from the original organization / authors and may be ad hoc in nature, edited for clarity, style and length. The views and opinions expressed are those of the author (s). See it in full here.

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